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by Bee 

Posted: 08 July 2004
Word Count: 1129

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Cancer – the word spits at me. Cancer. The word spinning around my world, I am dizzy, not quite sick but everything is fast. ‘Vroom.’ It all goes past me, too quick for my mind to decipher, around and around. I sit down, my mouth is dry – the water swirls around, I open my mouth, it sticks together – agape, no words come out. Somehow, in robotic motions I make it out the building, on to the bus and home. It taunts, it sings and sneers cancer, cancer, cancer. I sit on my porch steps and rock to and fro, my hands over my ears. Somehow the motion calms me down, back and forth, back and forth. It’s odd that in fright and in madness it’s always the same from person to person back and forth. Odd. I get up and light a cigarette, pour myself a gin and tonic then head back for the porch, where calm loiters for the moment. A cigarette clenched between my thumb and index finger I continue my motion, somehow enjoying it, floating along with the emerging madness. Back and forth, stop, puff, exhale and then back and forth. Every thought concentrating on the action, drink up, sip, drink down and then back and forth. It must be an hour or two, and then I stop. Bored. The clouds are grey, low and lurking and there’s a sort of comfort in their maudlin gaze, as though they empathise, I am not alone. I have nature. And so for the next hour I stare at the sombre sky, I stare with a vacant smile, I stare as though I am understood, it will be okay – I have the clouds. For a second everything makes sense, for a second I feel as though I understand, as though I share a secret and as fleeting as that second is, I lose it. Once again, I am in the maze. I am now cold, I am still sober, and so I pour another drink along with lighting the associated cigarette.

I’m drunk. I put on Ella Fitzgerald, I take off my clothes and I dance naked. I hold my hands out, the end of the cigarette threatening to burn my fingers; I move around the room my arms out, my body tingling with the cold night air. I stand in the garden, I hope that people can see me – that my neighbour, the reticent Mr Calloway will be looking in his contemplative silence and I hope that in his house he will have opera in the background, perhaps Maria Callas. I want the movie. I want the drama. I stand still; I stand as the music climaxes as the gin rushes through my blood as the cigarette now does actually burn me. I stand still, I urge the tears to come, I silently beg. I am too calm, I am too content – I am actually having fun. Damn you, damn you, damn you, where are the tears? I stand and trigger my mind, I think of memories shared, of laughter and of tears, but nothing works and so I think of books and movies that have effected me, I have to go down that route and I hate myself.
The phone rings, I am lying on my couch the last of the gin in my glass, the music is still on but softer and my naked body is covered with a blanket. I am defeated, I want sleep but it wont come and I wont allow it, not until the tears have been. I have given up trying and now it’s a waiting game. I pick up the phone in a perfunctory motion and sigh into the speaker, too drunk to say hello, and then I suddenly realise that I am also too drunk to listen and so I put down the phone. I close my eyes realising that I am out of cigarettes and alcohol and I am suddenly very depressed.

I jump up, my heart suddenly thudding. ‘Fuck’ I scream as I bump into the cabinet, not managing to walk in a straight line. The doorbell rings again, and as I am about to open it I realise that I am naked. I take a coat off the rack, an acrid army coat, I put it on and then open the door – for a second I am blinded by the light and cant make out the visitor. I cover my eyes with my hand, my head aches, I can hear the thud, thud, and all I really want is a cigarette. I squint and make out that its Niall, my best friend. Can I have a fag, I ask –it comes out as a dubious croak. I head back to the couch and slump on to it. There is silence except for the inhaling and exhaling of our cigarettes.
‘Did you phone last night?’ I ask him, attacking what lurks unsaid before he gets there, planting my lie. ‘Sorry, I was too drunk to speak. I had been out with work.’
He asks me if everything is okay, looks at me with squint eyes. I nod and murmur that I just have a hangover, I cant be a good host, I can barely move. For a while I think he will see past me, past my dunk bloodshot eyes, and see that the truth remains elsewhere. Instead he goes into the kitchen and comes back a few minutes later with two mugs of coffee. I sit up; I know I must look like hell. I know that my coat falls down to reveal my breasts; my legs – unshaven – are on show. I don’t care. Thanks, I say to him and sip appreciatively at the steaming coffee.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ Niall asks, one more time and then throws a box of cigarettes on the table and says goodbye. I lie down, and go to sleep.

I mumble thanks and put down the phone, I light a cigarette and pour a glass of wine (from the bottle I have just bought). My hair and body are clean, I am perfumed, and my clothes are fresh. I stand in the middle of the room, observing my surroundings. The doorbell rings, I open it to a red faced perspiring man, ‘Are you ready’ he asks, peering in the house and offering to take my bag. I nod, and shut the door behind me.
‘To Heathrow?’ he enquires as I get into the back and light another cigarette. ‘Special occasion?’ he looks at me through his rear-view mirror.
I nod, and manage a smile, ‘Um, yes – going to say goodbye to a family member.’
And finally, I feel the tears.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 19:03 on 08 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Bee,

The end was a complete surprise, and even after I'd finished I wasn't quite sure - it could almost still be what one believed when reading. (I like that though.) I began to note typos - there are a few missing apostrophes, and there's an 'effected' that should be 'affected', but I was grabbed and carried along by the story and the way you've shown your narrator's state of mind - compelling, and touching too. I think you could polish this - perhaps read aloud and restructure a few slightly awkward sentences - I had to read this one twice to understand. It’s odd that in fright and in madness it’s always the same from person to person back and forth. A memorable piece, look forward to more.

Best, Nell.

geoffmorris at 20:30 on 22 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Bee,

I love the idea you have here but I agree with Nell it could do with some polishing. I think you relinquish some of the emotion, and thus the impact, of the piece when you use words that I would describe of 'writer's' words. In that I mena you pull the reader out of the scene by using language that only ever appears in books. How often do you use the word agape in conversation? I think it could really benefit from a stripped down, more visceral approach.

Love the idea though, the image instantly jumps out at me as ripe for screen adaptation (and there are only 1000 or so words!)


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